Amidst all this spring training uncertainty, the Castillo/Perez drama and numerous articles predicting the Mets to be a mediocre team, I felt it was time to look forward to a few things, and these are five reasons to look forward to the 2011 Mets.
1.) The Growth Of Players
2011 will mark the next major seasons for Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell. What can another season worth of growth do for these players. Can Angel Pagan become a 15/35 or 20/40 CF with Gold Glove defense AND stay healthy? Can Jonathon Niese be strong for a whole season? Can Mike Pelfrey just stay consistent and win 15 games while keeping his cool? Can R.A. Dickey repeat his season or even come close to it? Can Bobby Parnell learn to throw and trust his breaking ball, making his role as a closer waiting in the wings a reality? The possibility for 7 homegrown players to be starting on opening day is a very welcomed site.
2.) The End Of Mediocrity
So long to players who did not deserve at-bats but received them based on contractual obligations (Alex Cora, Luis Castillo) or pitchers who ate innings poorly for large contracts (Oliver Perez, John Maine). The new regime and managers seem to much rather performance then pay, and that mindset and set of ideas can be extremely beneficial for fielding the strongest team possible.
3.) Competent Minor League Progression
The days of aggressive placement for top prospects seems to be over, and prospects will be allowed to grow level-to-level based on there performance, not trying to issue a new challenge. The issue with advancing great prospects ahead of their own progression is if they cannot succeed, they may alter what got them to that point in hopes of fixing a problem, while just opening another weakness. Most experts say the average batter should put in 2000 ABs at the minor league level to get acclimated. Advancing the prospects based on their skill set seems to be smarter.
4.) The Second Base Dilemma
Why is this a plus, you ask? The Mets have been fielding Luis Castillo who over the course of his 3 1/2 years averaged a 84 OPS+ and below average defense. The Mets sending out Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy or pretty much anyone short of Luis Castillo and probably receive the same defensive contribution and a significantly better offensive product. What Luis Castillo gave in OBP, he sacrificed everywhere else. This is the best problem the Mets have had in years, because they can only go upward offensively, and not having someone who is either walking or going to ground out is a major plus.
5.) A Full Year from the Core
The Mets have not fielded a lineup this well rounded overall in quite a few years. The outfield hasn’t been this strong or productive since the Cliff Floyd/Moises Alou/Beltran days. The outfield of Beltran/Bay/Pagan could be one of the best, if not the best outfield group in the entire National League. Josh Thole is the polar opposite of last years catching core known as pop-up, strikeout & sons. The infield is going to be fielding 3 great players all under 30, determined to prove that they aren’t complacent on what they’ve done or by just winning some games.
Their are of course downsides, such as the possibility of Johan Santana not pitching a game, K-Rod’s option vesting, Jose Reyes being traded/not resigning with the Mets, Carlos Beltran not getting on the field or a variety of other issues. But April 1st is approaching, and the best way to begin the season is with optimism